As per my last blog post I was sent 4 Muriel Spark books by Berlinn as part of a Year of Muriel Spark.
The Comforters is the first I’ve read.
Caroline Rose is plagued by the tapping of typewriter keys and the strange, detached narration of her every thought and action. She has an unusual problem – she realises she is in a novel. Her fellow characters are also possibly deluded: Laurence, her former lover, finds diamonds in a loaf of bread – could his elderly grandmother really be a smuggler? And Baron Stock, her bookseller friend, believes he is on the trail of England’s leading Satanist.
This is the metafictional surrealism that is promised, but Spark delivers much more and the metafiction isn’t the strongest thread. This is Spark’s first novel and her prose style is already accomplished but occasionally it does feel a little undercooked. For example there is a car crash (minor spoiler) which is over in a sentence. Some of the relationshps don’t stand up to too much scrutiny and the end of the crime caper sub-plot seems a little contrived. But it’s still an entertaining read despite a few flaws because of the prose and the humour.
The granny who hides diamonds in bread, the satanist sub-plot and the bizarre familial relations are reminiscent of Ealing comedies. The plot also relies heavily on a Catholic conversion (Spark converted to Catholicism) and was the metafiction a device or a commentary on mental illness?
In all an odd debut but an enjoyable one. I’m looking forward to diving into her second book: Robinson
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